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The Reign in the North

1 February, 2021
The Reign in the North | News | Pause Awards
George Hedon
1 February, 2021
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For a sparsely populated country (5.4 million people spread over 338,424 kilometres) with average temperatures that hover around -20°C, with some parts engulfed in darkness for a large part of the year, Finland still has a lot to boast for.

Not only is it the happiest place to live in, according to The World Happiness Report, it is also declared as one of the freest, most stable and safest countries in the world. The country is also a hotbed for design, tech and business to coalesce harmoniously, and in doing so, it has created one of the most vibrant startup scenes in the world.

According to the Finnish Venture Capital Association, a record-high of 479 million euros was invested into Finnish startups and early-stage companies in 2018. Of that, 291 million euros were foreign investments, and another 103 million were foreign VC funds. The remainder was from Finnish VCs and business angels. The number of investments from both Finnish and international VC funds has grown significantly year on year.

This growth is incredible, considering that ten years ago Finland had a mostly minor tech presence until Nokia brought a spark to the community. Then Rovio – the team behind Angry Birds – entered and took the global gaming industry by storm. And then onto the scene arrived Supercell, Seriously and Framery to name a few. Since then, there’s been a slew of home-grown startups and growth companies competing on the world stage in sectors like food tech, health tech, IT services and the circular economy. And of course, gaming. The reason for this white-hot startup and innovation scene comes down to the following:

Slush 2019

Strong commitment from both public and private sectors

The government’s strong commitment to innovation and R&D is a crucial factor in the country’s development into one of the world’s leading knowledge-based economies. Its R&D expenditure has consistently been around 3 percent of its GDP for the last decade, among the highest percentages in Europe. 

Now, if you add that with a dedicated funding agency for innovation, Tekes, the active cooperation between private and public companies, and researchers, as well as a myriad of mentoring programs, a flourishing and prosperous ecosystem for innovation is produced.

And there’s one other vital portion: robust patent systems. Inventors are given powerful protection over their inventions. For example, if there were a joint R&D project, the IPR belongs to the company and not the research or education institution. As a result, ambitious innovators and companies are reassured and provided with the ideal platform to create and test their products.

Consumers, too, give their strong support for R&D. Finns are known to be early adopters of emerging technologies, making Finland an ideal testbed for new solutions, ideas, and technologies.

Slush 2019

Hyper-engaged business circles

Finland may be a small country, especially if we’re comparing population densities. But it has highly-engaged communities that bolster each other and the overall ecosystem. 

For example, Helsinki hosts the biggest startup cluster in the Nordics. Maria 01 is a community campus for the startup ecosystem. With over 1,000 members, it provides an opportunity for early-stage startups to work alongside VS, corporations and other startup organisations. It is also currently expanding to become one of Europe’s largest growth company campuses. 

In addition to providing platforms for learning and developing, the country is also home to community- and business-led events where knowledge and experiences are shared openly. These events include Startup Sauna, an accelerator program, and Slush, one of the biggest startup events in the world.

Oodi Helsinki Central Library by ALA Architects

The Finnish culture

The Finnish breathe design and tech. We know about their love for tech, but they also hold design in high regard. A stroll around Helsinki’s Design District and you’ll find Instagram-worthy architecture, well-curated museums and more. And then you have globally renowned design brands like Marimekko.

This love and a keen eye for design and tech, as well as the strength of will, perseverance and determination that the Finnish are known for (they call this Sisu), it is no wonder that a thriving environment is set for innovators and founders to find success.

This love and a keen eye for design and tech, as well as the strength of will, perseverance and determination that the Finnish are known for (they call this Sisu), it is no wonder that a thriving environment is set for innovators and founders to find success.

In addition to providing platforms for learning and developing, the country is also home to community- and business-led events where knowledge and experiences are shared openly. These events include Startup Sauna, an accelerator program, and Slush, one of the biggest startup events in the world.


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